Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday â€“ only to be surpassed by New Yearâ€™s Day â€“ the ultimate new beginning (but thatâ€™s another column!).
Rather than focusing on one day a year for giving thanks â€” which often gets blended with football and naps â€” Iâ€™ve started to reframe the holiday as ThanksLiving. Itâ€™s really a way of life, rather than the observance of a single day.
What a difference a letter makes! Just think about it. Unlike other traditions, the season of ThanksLiving has no beginning or end â€” no retail displays in September or clearance sales in January.
Taking creative license
My license plate says LIVE. People ask me if itâ€™s pronounced like the word â€śaliveâ€ť or whether it rhymes with the word â€śgive.â€ť My original concept was the latter, although theyâ€™re really interchangeable concepts.
Either way, the license plate is there to remind me to live fully now â€” that this is not a dress rehearsal. Sometimes I take notice of it during my daily trips in and out of the car. At other times it just fades into the background. Its visibility helps me stay conscious of my intention to LIVE fully, though.
Switching gears from autopilot
Itâ€™s easy to take things for granted â€” and to sleepwalk through our lives. And then we get jolted by tragic events on our 24/7 news feeds. Or by a wakeup call from a medical report, illness or accident.
Approximately 70% of the messages we encounter in our everyday lives are negative, so it takes a lot of energy to reset our systems to neutral, much less to the positive realm. This takes into account news commentaries, actions of others and our ever-present internal critics.
Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s so important to pay attention to how weâ€™re responding to external events. It helps to have some â€śreservesâ€ť of positive thoughts to counter the forces that could drag us into a downward spiral.
Of course, itâ€™s impractical (and inauthentic) to stay in a state of positivity all the time. Life is full of contrasts, and we all have our ups and downs. Iâ€™m just saying that an ongoing consciousness of ThanksLiving may help.
Practice makes perfect
Thatâ€™s the thing with gratitude. It takes practice to keep this discipline front and center in our lives. And, while it may sound rather mechanical, establishing a framework of gratitude requires repetition â€” just like any other habit.
After a while, though, the triggers are in place. And the mindset comes along more easily.
If you start to look for elements of gratitude in your life, you may uncover some patterns. The theory is that youâ€™ll draw experiences into your life relative to your level of consciousness. If youâ€™re continually in a downward spiral, youâ€™re likely to attract more of that type of energy.
An unlikely illustration of this theory is presented in the book â€śThe Magicâ€ť by author Rhonda Byrne. The scenario involves a man who has recently been laid off from a job and asked to cite some reasons for which to be grateful about the situation.
As you can imagine, he had to dig deep. Here are some of his responses:
- Iâ€™m grateful Iâ€™ve had a job most of my life â€” and that Iâ€™m experienced.
- Iâ€™m grateful I have my health and that I can work.
- Iâ€™m grateful for the encouragement of my family and friends.
- Through losing my job, Iâ€™ve realized how much having a job means to me. Iâ€™d never realized that until now.
- This experience has compelled me to consider other paths and opportunities that I would not have explored if I were still employed.
You get the idea. If the practice of gratitude can be done with something as devastating as a job loss, imagine the possibilities with less-severe instances in your everyday life.
Not feeling the love?
You may be so overwhelmed by circumstances in your life â€” or the world at large â€” that you donâ€™t feel like counting your blessings. And then you can end up feeling guilty about not being more grateful.
Guilt is actually fear turned inward, though, and thereâ€™s enough fear going on in our outer world!
Go ahead and wallow in your pain a bit. Once youâ€™ve had your time in the valley, start crawling back up to the peak (or at least the line of scrimmage). Look at the things that are going RIGHT in your life.
If you focus on whatâ€™s wrong â€” or all the things you donâ€™t have â€” you can wind up feeling a sense of lack. And thatâ€™s what will likely manifest in your life. Which reminds me of the saying, â€śBe careful what you wish for.â€ť
You may not think youâ€™re â€świshingâ€ť when you continue to stay in the valleys of your life. However, your system picks up on these repetitive signals and can interpret them this way.
If I have one wish for you this Thanksgiving, itâ€™s that you treat yourself with a little more kindness. Author Stephen Levine says to â€śtreasure yourself.â€ť In most cases, youâ€™re doing the best you can.
If youâ€™re not â€śfeeling the loveâ€ť this Thanksgiving season, remember you can change your perspective to ThanksLIVING: An Endless Season.
And then watch what happens.